Cranial Insertion: Crime and Punishment

Cranial Insertion
Crime and Punishment
or, Not the Split Card

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

This Saturday just past, the DCI put into effect a new set of penalty guidelines. So forget everything you've learned from us, your judges, and other sources about the penalties – or not.

The new penalty guidelines, for the most part, enforce what we've done for years, but what hasn't been actually written down anywhere. We're switching from oral tradition to written tradition, so to speak.

Today's topic is not just these new penalties, but how they affect you as a player, and for the judges in the audience, a quick reference sheet with hyperlinks on the right! You can also download the PG document here for more details than I'm including.

Let's start with some general information.

Match Point Penalties

This is a new penalty – we've had cautions, warnings, game losses, match losses, and disqualifications for years, but not match point penalties. As you probably know, winning a match nets you 3 match points. With a match point penalty, you lose one. Not for the current match, but for the tournament overall, so even if you lose the match, your overall points go down by 1. -1 match points is displayed as 0, but treated as -1 for the purpose of raising it. Sound familiar?

An important note to the judges reading this: USE THIS CORRECTLY. The DCI is very strict on the use of match point penalties, and you will be suspended for improper use. They are for one-game matches, such as in Two-Headed Giant and Dreamblade, and not for three-game matches. You never upgrade a penalty for repeated infractions to match point loss, and only use them to replace game losses (except for Unsporting Conduct—Major.)

Downgrading Penalties

If you make a mistake and notice it, what do you do? The answer has always been "Call a judge" – anything else is and was cheating. However, now judges are specifically given the option to downgrade a penalty if you call them for your own error before it can give you an advantage. For example, if you present your deck and then realize before you draw that you didn't desideboard, the head judge may only issue a warning and allow you to desideboard.

Note that I've said "may" and "option". You may still receive the full penalty of a game loss. This is up to the discretion of the head judge.

Rules Enforcement Levels

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – not anymore! Now we have "Regular", "Competitive", and "Professional". In general, REL 1 events (like Friday Night Magic) are Regular, REL 2 and 3 (Champs, Pro Tour Qualifiers) is Competitive, and REL 4 and 5 (Grand Prix, Pro Tours) are Professional. This isn't 100% accurate, since some REL 2 events are Regular and some events have mixed RELs – listen to the announcements at the start of the tournament, or ask a judge if you're unsure.

Penalties for each infraction will be listed below the bolded name in the format (Regular/Competitive/Professional), or with just a penalty if that same penalty applies to all levels.

Intentional Violations

Breaking any rule intentionally is some form of cheating, most likely fraud. Most of these penalties assume that there is no intent. So don't say "The penalty is only a game loss? But he could be cheating!" If he's cheating, the judge won't stop at a game loss, trust me.

Deck/Warband Errors

These infractions are for problems with your deck or decklist, as the name rather implies. "Warband" is included for the DCI's miniature games, since forming a bunch of models into a deck seems suboptimal and may count as significant changes to the miniatures. We're just going to focus on the deck aspect, since you're all here to read about Magic.

But Dreamblade is still awesome.

Deck/Warband Error — Illegal Decklist

You wrote down the wrong cards. Oops. Or perhaps you listed an ambiguous card name, such as "Akroma." Or there are only 59 cards. That's game.

Solution: Review your list *carefully* before you turn it in.

Deck/Warband Error — Illegal Deck (Legal Decklist)

Your Faith's Fetters eloped with the creature it enchanted last game, and is currently nested cozily in your opponent's deck. Or one of your cards is on the floor instead of in your deck. That's also game.

Solution: Count your deck before you present it for a cut, and check it between matches for any cards that sneaked in.

Deck/Warband Error — Illegal Deck (No Decklists)

Since lists aren't being used, this won't apply for Professional REL events, or even for most Competitive events. It's pretty common at Friday Night Magic, though, especially when a new set is released and someone's trying to play with those happy, shiny new cards – but those happy shiny new cards aren't legal for Standard yet! It also includes missing cards, having fewer than 60 cards, and so on.

Solution: Don't build your deck at the last second, and make sure that it's absolutely legal before starting the tournament.

Deck/Warband Error — Improper Registration of Limited Card Pool
(Caution / Warning / Warning)

Hey, this is an exciting new infraction! It's for when you goof and mark one Gruul Turf instead of one Gruul Signet, or miss the box and mark the card below the one you mean to register. It's also for when you mark the cards you're opening in the "Played" column and not the "Total" column, which happened a ridiculous number of times at 2HG State Champs.

Solution: Be careful. And remember that if you do make a mistake and call a judge, it may be downgraded to just a caution, so you're not going to be kicked out for an honest accident.

Deck/Warband Error — Failure to Desideboard

Oh, this isn't new. We've had this for a while. It's just a deck error now instead of a procedural error. And it's still a game loss.

Solution: Write down your sideboard contents, and check it between matches against that list.

Game Play Errors

Poof, no more procedural errors! Now we have game play errors and tournament errors. This section includes all of the myriad ways in which players can ruin their game.

There is no more minor/major/severe gradient, which forced judges to look at how much the game state was damaged. Now we simply have three categories of clear errors, one catch-all, and one "Pay attention to what your opponent is doing" category.

I strongly suggest that casual players use these fixes for their games; you're not required to, but they're nice and consistent, and will prepare you if you stop being casual players and move up to tournaments.

Game Play Error — Incorrect Representation

If both players know what's going on, but something is technically incorrect, this is the infraction. Examples: Gemstone Caverns without a luck counter, tossing a land-search spell in the graveyard before searching, half-tapping a creature with vigilance.

Since both players know that the Caverns are lucky, the land-search spell is actually resolving, and the creature is really untapped, these problems aren't an issue – yet. They could become a problem later, so just do it correctly. (A player could forget that the Caverns have a luck counter, there could be a long chain of responses to a spell, or the vigilant creature could accidentally become physically fully tapped during combat, while still untapped in actuality and confuse everyone.)

Game Play Error — Illegal Game State

Both players have Flagstones of Trokair in play. Akroma, Angel of Fury is somewhat Pacified. A creature has too many -1/-1 counters on it and should be dead.

This problem group is fixed by the awesome State-Based Effects! Swoop, they rush in and make the game right again. That's all. You don't try to rewind the game, just apply SBEs and warnings, and carry on.

Note that Pacifism on Calciderm is legal; it may not have happened legally, but the current state is legal.

Game Play Error — Missed Trigger

Ah, triggers. At/When/Whenever. Forgetting them has their own special infraction now!

But there are four types of triggers, and each is handled specially, too. So much trigger love.

If it's a simple "may" trigger with no consequence for not doing it, it didn't happen. "You may gain 1 life"? Sorry, you didn't. This also doesn't get you a penalty.

If the trigger didn't change anything visible – counters, dead stuff, life totals, etc. – you just pretend it happened. Herd Gnarr got a few pumps, but you forgot to mention it? It sure did get those pumps. Move on. This sort of trigger also doesn't get you a penalty if you forget to mention it.

Now, let's get into the triggers that get you penalties when you forget them. Echo. Cumulative upkeep. Force of Nature. The first class of penalizable triggers are default triggers. They do X unless you do Y. For these triggers, you immediately do X. You no longer have the option to do Y. You can't respond to the trigger, it just resolves right away and your echo creature that you forgot is sacrificed.

The other class is triggers without a default, like Bob. Ah, Bob. You used to have a special, weird way to resolve your forgotten trigger. But now it's simple.

If the trigger does not have a default action and may have a visible affect on the game, and it's noticed before too long, you put it on the stack. If you're in the middle of something (like declaring attackers, announcing an ability) you back up. So now, Bob, you don't reveal a card in hand and eat life. Your trigger goes on the stack, the player reveals what is now the top card of the library, and that player loses that much life.

Forgot to gain life for Soul Warden when you played Grizzly Bears? You put the trigger on the stack. Forgot to gain life from Wurm's Tooth when you played the bears? It has a "may", so you don't.

Forgot to deal damage when Flametongue Kavu came into play? You're weird. And you put the ability on the stack and pick a target now. You can't choose anything that came into play after the Kavu, though – for forgotten triggers, all targets, choices, and options are restricted to what was available when the ability should have been put on the stack.

There are a lot of interesting questions with forgotten triggers, and we'll cover them as they come up in the column. For today, just consider the new set of trigger policy and email us at [email][email protected][/email] if you have questions about it. Let's move on to other stuff.

Game Play Error — Game Rule Violation

This is the catch-all. Any game rules broken, such as targeting Calciderm with Pacifism and paying BBBW for Wrath of God, count here.

If you catch the error before it matters, undo it. Make the player pay the right mana for Wrath or not play it at all, and undo the playing of Pacifism. If the Pacifism has been on the Calciderm for a bit, or if Wrath is already over and done with, leave it as it is. Rewinding is bad, mmkay?

Game Play Error — Failure to Maintain Game State

So, if a trigger is forgotten, or a game rule is violated, or an illegal game state exists, the offending player gets a warning. And the other player? Why didn't they notice the error when it happened? Pay attention!

This infraction is for that player who wasn't paying attention. Of course, if they do catch it right away, they don't get a penalty. And if the error happened in a hidden zone (such as playing a creature without morph face down), only the offending player receives a penalty.

Tournament Errors

These are the mistakes that happen outside of the game. A lot of them used to be procedural errors, which was a maddeningly vague term, come to think of it. Since they're tournament errors, they don't apply to casual games. Casual players can skip this section.

Tournament Error — Tardiness
(Warning / Game / Game)

We all know how tardiness works. Be there when the round starts. If you're not, you'll get a game loss at Competitive and Professional events. At any level, if you're not there in ten minutes, you'll get two game losses and be dropped from the tournament, and that is sad.

If you do show up after ten minutes and wish to continue playing despite your match loss, hunt down the scorekeeper. Bows and arrows are not recommended for scorekeeper-hunting, as scorekeepers are some of the hardiness, cleverest, and most powerful creatures known to the DCI.

Tournament Error — Playing the Wrong Opponent

Play the right person. If there are table numbers, make sure you're at the right number (6 and 9 are not to be confused; 4 and 19 even less so.) If not, greet your opponent by name ("Bob? I'm not Bob, I'm Moko!")

The penalty is only a warning, but you can also receive tardiness penalties if you don't realize that you're playing the wrong person quickly.

Tournament Error — Slow Play

We could do an entire article on slow play, except that it's so subjective. Just remember to play at a reasonable pace, don't spend too much time taking notes, and that a complicated board is not a reason to slow down too much.

It's worthwhile to note that exceeding the pregame time limit (3 minutes to shuffle, present, and mulligan) counts as slow play now, and is not its own penalty.

Tournament Error — Insufficient Randomization
(Warning / Game / Game)

Shuffle. Shuffle shuffle shuffle. One riffle shuffle after searching your library for a land doesn't cut it.

Remember that this infraction assumes that you didn't intentionally stack your deck. That's cheating, of course.

Also, the new guidelines specifically mentions mana weaving: Stacking your deck is okay as long as you sufficiently randomize it afterwards. However, failure to sufficiently randomize after mana weaving, whether or not your insufficient randomization is intentional or not, is cheating.

So mana weaving is still Not A Good Thing(tm), although not strictly a Bad Thing(tm).

Tournament Error — Failure to Follow Official Announcements

I love how the PG lists "smoking in a non-smoking venue" as only failure to follow announcements. I'd think you'd be in much more legal trouble and forcibly ejected from the premises in addition to the warning.

This infraction applies to failure to follow a general announcement, not an instruction to an individual. If I tell everyone to write their name on their decklist, not doing so can earn you a warning. If I tell YOU to write your name on your decklist, that's unsporting conduct, which we'll get into shortly.

Of course, the judges should take into account hearing difficulty, garbled microphones, and other such impediments to receiving the official announcements when issuing this penalty. And as players, you should remember that a warning isn't a big deal unless the action is repeated.

Tournament Error — Draft Procedure Violation
(Caution / Caution / Warning)

This is a catch-all infraction for doing things that mess up a draft. You should note that revealing your picks or peeking at other player's cards is specifically mentioned as cheating.

Unsporting Conduct

Unsporting conduct. Just don't be a mean and/or disruptive player, okay?

There is a gray area between "sporting" and "unsporting," such as lying about the contents of your hand or library, or Jedi mind tricks. If you're not sure if your sneaky maneuvers are legal, ask a judge.

Unsporting Conduct — Minor

The minor infraction is for actions that can bother people, but not hugely so. Note "can," not "does". If you swear a blue streak, even if everyone else is laughing at your creative curses, that's a problem. Calling your opponent a "n00b?" Problem. Leaving heaps of trash? Problem. Asking for the head judge before the judge answering your call can give a ruling? Problem.

For the most part, the Golden Rule (of life, not Magic) can keep you problem-free.

Unsporting Conduct — Major

This is where failing to follow a tournament official's instructions given specifically to you gets you in trouble. It also includes excessive arguing with tournament officials; aggressive, dangerous, or violent behavior that isn't directed at a person; and prejudiced insults.

Arguing with the head judge's final ruling? Big problem. Throwing cards across the room? Big problem. Calling your opponent a "***got n00b"? Bigger problem than just calling him a "n00b."

Once again, be good and you'll be safe from this infraction.

Unsporting Conduct — Randomly Determining a Winner

Now we get into the four unsporting disqualifiable offenses. Goodie goodie.

As all Tucson players know, you may not roll a die to determine the winner of the game. Nor may you flip a coin, arm wrestle, hunt elephants, or do anything except play a game of Magic.

If your opponent offers to do so, call a judge RIGHT AWAY. Not doing so can get you disqualified as well.

Unsporting Conduct — Bribery and Wagering

Bribery is offering anything to determine the outcome. Wagering is offering anything depending on the outcome. Both are bad. Wagering is even illegal in many locations, and will get you in extra trouble with the law.

Just like randomly determining a winner, call a judge right away if your opponent offers you anything in exchange for a draw or the win, or offers a bet on the match. Once again, not doing so can get you in trouble, too.

Unsporting Conduct — Aggressive Behavior
(Deee kyeeeew)

Violence may or may not be the answer, but it gets you kicked out of Magic tournaments. This includes any sort of violence or threat thereof directed at any player or another player's belongings, whether direct or indirect.

Unsporting Conduct — Theft of Tournament Material
(DQ & Legal Action)

Don't steal. Really now.

"Tournament Material" covers anything that is part of running the tournament. Prizes, cards from a deck or sideboard, cards opened in a sealed pool, the laptop with DCIR, and so on. Stealing anything that is not part of the actual tournament, such as a player's trade binder, the tournament organizer's car, the Hope Diamond, etcetera, will very likely get you removed by the police and/or the organizer, and you'll just be dropped from the tournament instead of disqualified. Isn't that a relief?


Cheating is a DQ. This has been and always will be. You do not get a "warning for cheating." You leave and likely get a suspension from all DCI events. So, what counts as cheating?

Cheating — Stalling

Stalling is intentionally playing slowly (or "thinking" and not playing) to abuse the fact that there is a time limit. It is not unintentional slow play, and it is cheating.

Cheating — Fraud

Fraud is intentionally misrepresenting anything. This includes lying about who you are, having multiple DCI numbers, knowingly allowing an illegal action to occur, lying to a judge, or lying about the game state.

Lots of lying. Don't lie. Except about hidden information within the game, that's fun to lie about.

Cheating — Outside Assistance

Giving or seeking advice or hidden information. This includes strategic advice, your opponent's hand, what another player is drafting, and what you are drafting. It also includes the ever-popular Outside Notes of Doom.

Cheating — Manipulation of Game Materials

This includes stacking your deck, marking your cards, and doing things illegally to things on the things – er, table – such as sneakily untapping your lands while the opponent isn't looking or drawing extra cards. All very bad, and all assuming it's intentional.

Card Drawing

If you're accidentally manipulating game materials, you're probably down here. (Or you've got that Tournament Error—Insufficient Randomization from up above.) "Card Drawing" penalties include anything that lets cards be illegally known or in your hand.

Card Drawing — Looking at Extra Cards
(Caution / Warning / Warning)

If you see a card's face when you're not allowed to or if it moves too far from the deck, it's looking at extra cards. This is very often having a card fly out of a deck while shuffling or flipping over a card while drawing one.

Just like we've been doing for a while now, you shuffle whatever part of the deck is supposed to be random. So cards known by Sensei's Divining Top stay where they are, even if that's the card you looked at – in that case, you wouldn't actually shuffle.

Card Drawing — Drawing Extra Cards
(Warning / Game / Game)

If you pick up a card and it touches your other cards, you drew it. I hope you were supposed to draw it, otherwise you've committed this infraction.

Just like before, you put the card back on top of the library (or a random card if the drawn card is unknown) and shuffle the random part of the library since the card was looked at.

Card Drawing — Improper Drawing at Start of Game
(Caution / Warning / Warning)

If you draw too many or too few cards when you start, this is the infraction. If you drew too few, draw up to the right number. If you drew too many, you get a forced mulligan. Yay.

Card Drawing — Failure to Discard
(Caution / Warning / Warning)

Forgetting to discard when you have eight cards in hand at the end of the turn, or forgetting to choose and discard after you randomly discard for Stupor. You discard immediately when it's noticed. If the discard was supposed to be random, you randomly discard.

You might remember the amusing, rarely-issued "Failure to Draw" infraction from the old guidelines. That's just a Game Rules Violation now, while failure to discard is separate for tracking purposes.

Marked Cards
Marked Cards — No Pattern (Caution / Warning / Warning)
Marked Cards — Pattern (Warning / Game / Game)

No more "Marked Cards—Minor" and "Major!" Now we care if there is or is not a pattern. This makes a lot of sense, since "minor" and "major" are so subjective, but a pattern exists or does not exist. Of course, if a pattern exists, you're going to be investigated for savage cheating (Cheating—Manipulation of Game Materials), too.

Get new sleeves for each major tournament, and always have some extra sleeves in case some of your sleeves are damaged during the event. That's a small price to pay to avoid these infractions and the risk of a DQ.

Well, that was an informative article. I hope that you learned something, whether you judge, play, or just watch Magic games. The most important thing for you to notice as a player is that the guidelines are much less subjective than the old penalty guidelines, and that they apply evenly throughout all events. Friday Night Magic does not ignore these guidelines just because it's not a Competitive event; FNM tournaments are expected to be run with the Regular level of penalties and rules enforcement.

Until next time, don't break any rules!

-Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, AZ


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